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Newsletter - Nov 2015

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PM Essence
Are you Creative? I Bet you Are

                                                                                                                                - Reena Dayal Yadav

I ponder on the question I just asked in the title of this article and despite knowing that a question is probably not the best way to start an article, I still do so. Why? Well because most of what I end up writing is an answer to a question that I either asked myself or someone else. Here's my analysis of my own question and a possible answer as well.

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 Intelligence and Creativity are both multifaceted. Intelligence manifests itself in many ways - A person can have varying degrees of academic intelligence, Social Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence. These three aspects have been talked about by Daniel Goleman in his books. I would add Spiritual Intelligence to that - The intelligence of being able to look at ecosystems and their harmony in a balanced intuitive, understanding way. Similar to the Intelligence example, Creativity can be manifested in many different ways. There are those who are more Creative Problem Solvers because of their capacity to identify patterns, Creative Idea Generators (Out of the Box Thinkers), Imaginative Creative Artists, Creative Solution Creators and Creative Leaders (who exhibit creativity in people/team handling). Most of these people exhibit a combination of a certain type of intelligence and creativity in that space.


If you are wondering if you are creative/ have the capacity to be creative, then the answer is yes. Human beings are hardwired to be creative. The future has forever been built by imagining it first. The Theory for Unknowns is built on premises which are first envisaged and then validated or verified - as is the case of Theoretical Physics. Einstein had mentioned that at the age of 16, he imagined chasing after a beam of light and that the thought experiment had played a memorable role in his development of special relativity. In fact Einstein gave utmost importance to the role of imagination. He said, “The greatest scientists are artists as well”.

Vincent Van Gogh's “A Starry Night" or " The Sunflower" were not recognized as great art initially because he used his imagination to look at things differently and this difference in approach is visible in his paintings. The structure of benzene was discovered by Kekule through an active visual imaginative capacity. He dreamt of atoms dancing together and forming a snake. The atom snake moved around till it ended up eating its own tail. Kekule was working over the possible structure of benzene at that time and he immediately linked the dream to the possibility of benzene having a cyclic structure.


The problem with taking examples of Einstein, Van Gogh and Kekule is that, most people will turn around and say that “Yes these famous people were creative, however that does not go on to prove that everybody can be creative." That's a pretty reasonable argument, however let us look at the root of the creativity of these individuals- a very vivid and visual imaginative capacity. All human beings are blessed with the capacity to imagine. The difference is that some people are able to easily mix their imaginative faculties with other skills or knowledge that they possess. So a writer is able to weave words around his/her imagination; A physicist is able to visualize laws that govern the universe using his imagination; A music composer is able to apply his imagination to create new combinations of sounds which he has already mastered and so on. The moment you examine this process, it becomes pretty clear that this is a teachable process, a skill made better by practice and application. In that sense every human being is creative and if I had really bet on that question, I already won the bet.
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PM Essence
Implementing Project Management Metrics: Hope for the Best but Plan for the Worst 

                                                                                                                            - Harold Kerzner, Ph.D

With the growth in Project Management metrics, KPIs and dashboard reporting systems, companies are improving their success to failure ratios on projects and strategic initiatives. But even though the path looks bright, all that glitters is not always gold, at least seen by those people that would be required to measure and report new metrics.


People tend to build up comfort zones at work and then adjust their energy cycle according to their comfort zone. Asking them to learn new techniques and report status differently may remove them from their comfort zone. When people believe their traditional comfort zone is in jeopardy of being changed, even if the change is for the better, they then come up with a variety of excuses as to why the new techniques should not be used. For almost five decades, project team members became accustomed to reporting just time and cost metrics/KPIs on their projects and doing so with written reports. Now, we are asking them to report significantly more metrics/KPIs, and to do so using a dashboard reporting system.


There are numerous excuses that people identify as to why they should not have to learn anything new or change their work habits. Many times, the excuses are related to a fear of the unknown. But often there are other hidden agendas that people use to justify their dissatisfaction.


“Metrics and KPIs are an expensive and useless measurement technique.”


People know that metrics are not useless techniques and that they could never win an argument trying to defend the uselessness of metrics and KPIs. Therefore, they include in the same sentence the argument of “costliness” hoping to detract the person they are arguing with from the fact that metrics/KPIs are actually useful. When someone uses this statement, what they are really trying to say is that they are just plain lazy and do not want to improve their performance.


“Metrics and KPIs are costly to maintain and the benefits do not justify the cost.”


Once again, people try to hide the truth. If you perform a benefit-to-cost analysis on the use of metrics and KPIs, you will see quickly that the benefits will significantly outweigh the costs. The reason why people also argue in the same sentence that such programs are “costly to maintain” is because initially there is an upfront investment needed to initiate a metrics/KPI performance measurement system. The upfront cost will include selecting the appropriate metrics/KPIs, determining the best measurement techniques, designing the appropriate dashboards, and finally performance reporting. Once the initial steps are accomplished, the cost of maintaining such a system is minimal because dashboard updates can be done in minutes by updates to Excel spreadsheets that feed data to the dashboard images. Perhaps there could be a significant cost in the first year to set up such systems but for the next ten years or longer, the cost savings, reduction in written reports, fewer costly meetings, improvements in decisionmaking, greater benefits realization and value added to the business will make the initial costs appear insignificant.


“Metrics/KPI measurements are a waste of productive time.”


When all other arguments fail, people fall back on the excuse of unproductive time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Successful metric/KPI performance programs can measure and report information in real time. It is not uncommon for dashboards to be updated daily.


Employees will not support a metrics management effort that looks like a spying machine and can report worker productivity on a daily basis if necessary. Some people are very touchy about their performance being measured. When metrics and KPIs are reported in real time or daily, worker performance or lack of performance becomes quite evident. Workers that seem to slack off a lot during the workday tend to use this argument.


Perhaps the greatest fear that workers have with metric/KPI measurement and reporting is that the information will be used during performance reviews as justification for rewards as well as punishment. It is a very bad idea to have metrics used during performance reviews because:


• The metrics/KPIs may be the result of more than one person's efforts and it may be impossible to determine which person was solely responsible for a good or bad result.



• Unfavorable results may have been due to circumstances beyond the individual's control.


• The true value of metric/KPI numbers may not be known until sometime in the future, thus leading to a performance review based upon incomplete information.


• Employees may “fudge the numbers” to make them look better than they are, thus providing stakeholders and governance personnel with faulty performance reporting.


• Employees in the same functional group may end up competing with one another for the best metric/KPI result rather than collaborating, and this could lead to suboptimal performance and decision making.


If you know that these situations can and will happen, then it should be obvious that a solution does exist. Whenever people are expected to learn new techniques and begin working differently, their first concern is “What's in it for me?” Therefore, senior management must take the lead in the implementation of any metric/KPI management program and explain to the workers how they will benefit and that the metrics/KPIs will not be used as part of performance reviews. If this is not done, then the firm runs the risk of having the workers sabotage the new metric/KPI initiative. Upfront buy-in is essential and this should be driven from the top down.

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PM Essence
PMNC 2015
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PM Essence
Crafting a Career 
                                                                                            - Pavan Soni 

Securing a job is one thing and shaping a career is quite another. In the modern times, which are mired by rapidity of change, increased life-expectancy and an ever shortening attention span, one needs to acknowledge that we need to prepare ourselves for a long haul. This also means that we need to stick to some simple heuristics (rules of thumb, or mental shortcuts) to navigate through this ever increasing complexity, yet to realize that our career and personal goals are always 'emergent', and not planned. Here, I offer simple heuristic that have helped me well while navigating through my career, right from my early days to this very day. I also offer some of the principles that have been handy in me crafting a career that has served me well, so far.




Making career choices


While given a mass of options or lack of it, I think the decision should come down to whether your prospective career offers you all three things: Knowledge, Money and Brand (mostly in that order). And if all three aren't available in a choice set, which is mostly the case, then the decision is about which two are available, and I say that even if a combination is available, go with the choice. Let me offer an explanation.


Working with a startup is a specific case where you typically will get a lot of new knowledge and perhaps good money (say in the form of equity position), and perhaps, not a good brand, to start with. Even then, you must not refuse the idea of working with it, provided you get some really new knowledge. With time, brand would come and so will money but none of this may happen, if you fail to assess the unique value addition in terms of knowledge and skills that has happened to you. Here, knowledge means 'know why', and skills me 'know how'.


Working in a large MNC offers you undoubtedly a good brand, and preferably a good salary but knowledge addition might be questionable, as is the case with most large IT MNCs in India, which are mostly tapping Indian low-cost advantage and not performing much of a cuttingedge work here. Still it's okay to work there for securing some money before starting on own.


Working in a Goverment establishment, such as ISRO, DRDO, or say a CSIR lab, certainly gives you a brand and knowledge (provided you are doing some real stuff) but certainly can't expect it to pay you very well. Hence, the choice is always about - knowledge addition in such situations.


Knowledge leads to Brand, and eventually, Money


Mostly good graduating students are confronted with choices of either securing a job, or pursuing higher studies, or starting on own. On the job front, the choices are typically about large firms or working with startups. Once again the dictum that has served me very well is that it is best to work at a place that does a significant value add to your knowledge & skills and then leveraging the same to get into better brands and secure finances. Typically, a better brand or a good salary may not necessarily help you secure new knowledge.


Once again, knowledge could be of two types - domain specific or generic; leading you to become a specialist or a generalist. I believe that with fragmentation of roles and increased connectivity, the future belongs to Working in a government specialists, and not generalist. The modularization of work, coupled with low access cost of talent, makes it an imperative that people develop expertise in narrow domains and publish their skills widely. In today's economy, one can surely make a good living by being good at something and letting people know that s/he is good at that through the social media or the ilk.


When I started taking consulting assignments way back, I wasn't getting paid for that. For one, I wasn't sure if somebody will pay me anything and secondly, I didn't know what's the right amount to ask. I was too keen to learn if some of my insights on innovation and creativity finds some real business applications and if I can learn from the field. The knowledge and exhibition of knowledge, helped me shape a personal brand and this later helped me get money. While doing so, the dominant discipline that drew me into my career has following tenets:


• Take half-chances

• Find a purpose in whatever you do, or are asked to do

• Share, rather than keeping it secret

• Try exposing yourself to difficult, unprecedented situations, to learn

• Stretch your limits, physically, intellectually, and emotionally

• Don't wait for 100% readiness to launch yourself, rather adopt 70% and go

• Better to ask for forgiveness, than seeking permission


Some of these might sound unrealistic to you, but have worked well for me.

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PM Essence
Q. This term refers to a person interacting with their phone or other device rather than interacting with human being

A. Phubbing is a term created by the combination of the words phone and snubbing. It refers to a person interactiing with their phone (or other device) rather than interacting with a human being. The use of this, and other terms around mobile device use, showcases a growing issue with different kinds of technology, including the delicate balance of sharing time and attention when facing two very different interactions at the same time.
[Source - Internet]
The Lighter Side of PM